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Report of membership decline - why?
Posted: 31 October 2013 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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I will be interested to see what comes of those talks.

You may wonder why I am being hard-nosed about asking this question…

As stated elsewhere, I have given deep and careful consideration to joining for a long time, and have researched the fraternity to get answers to my questions (that’s why I’m here on this forum).

So when I see hard evidence of declining membership, I have to ask myself what is happening. I’m not convinced the loss is all due to the age and passing of the older members, although this certainly would account for some of it. For the rest, if the fraternity is not holding on to its existing members, and/or not attracting new members in sufficient numbers to replace them, then as a prospective member I think it’s reasonable to wonder why, is it not?

Chris Hodapp talks about men leaving after their first meeting as a MM because they expected to do more than vote on the utility bills. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask why I would go through all that memory work etc for the priveledge of sitting and voting on such mundane matters. Frankly, and with respect, platitudes about 300 years of history and comparisons to a situation that occurred almost 200 years ago do little to settle the questions.

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Posted: 31 October 2013 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Hi Paul.

Thanks for posting that link - that is one of the articles from Chris Hodapp that I have read on this issue.  I also heard a wonderful speech given by him, reproduced on the Whence Came You podcast addressing the same issues. It seems this problem is very much on his mind.

Jim

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Posted: 31 October 2013 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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MasonMaybe - 31 October 2013 10:17 AM

Hi Paul.

Thanks for posting that link - that is one of the articles from Chris Hodapp that I have read on this issue.  I also heard a wonderful speech given by him, reproduced on the Whence Came You podcast addressing the same issues. It seems this problem is very much on his mind.

Jim

Hi Jim, yes, it is on his mind, but you must remember that he does not speak for the fraternity as a whole.  No single man does.  He has been a member for a long time and has seen both good and bad lodges but he is speaking in general terms.  Don’t get caught into the trap of thinking that just because he says something, that it is the ONLY answer. 

As a prospective member, you should be looking at the various lodges in your community, whether they are right down the street from where you live or maybe a few towns over, maybe closer to where you work.  The point is, talk to the members of the lodge(s) you may join and find out what they do in terms of a program.  If a lodge says all they do is read minutes and pay bills, ask why.  Granted, you will not find any lodge that does not have at least 1 or 2 strictly business meetings, they are unavoidable because certain things do need to be taken care of.  Ask the lodge what they are doing to keep members, and don’t settle for “we have always done it this way”.  If you find that the lodge is not receptive to new ideas, look to another one.  Each lodge has a personality.  My lodge was, for many years, one that ate dinner and socialized, then held a business meeting that consisted of minutes and bills, and maybe hearing about upcoming events in the district.  We newer guys wanted more of that and we took action and we are making a difference.  Sure, I knew from talking to the guys what went on at meetings and wondered just like you why I would commit to that torture.  But once I got in, and met more of the guys and found out that they too felt the same way, we went to work.  We saw what was broken and took action.  Was it easy, no.  Was it always fun, no.  Do we have the backing of 100% of the members, no.  Are we seeing benefit, yes.  Are those that stayed enjoying it more, yes.  Are some that were on the fence with the changes coming around, yes.  You see, you cannot just expect to join and have everything the way you want it and sit on the side lines.  You have to become passionate about it, you have to take pride in it, you have to sell it to the other members to make it grow.  So again, if you are simply concerned with numbers and having everything handed to you, not you personally but speaking in general terms mind you, Masonry may not be a good fit.  Masonry gives you the tools, you have to learn how to use them.  As his article says, and I paraphrase, the fate of the individual lodges cannot fall on the shoulders of the same few people in them.  They can get the ball rolling but it is responsibility of each and every member to help continue the success. 

And I know you feel that it has no bearing whatsoever, but the fact that we are the oldest, largest and most recognizable gentleman’s fraternity is our strength, even with declining numbers.

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W:. Bro. Paul Hulseapple
St. Georges Lodge #6
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32┬░AASR Valley of Schenectady
St Georges Chapter #157 Royal Arch Masons
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Posted: 31 October 2013 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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I understand what you are suggesting, but isn’t it a bit presumptuous to join with the intention of changing it as soon as I am raised?  That’s a bit like my first marriage, where we both went into it saying it will be OK once I change her/him….

The idea of checking out the different lodges (there are 6 in my town all sharing the same building) to see where I fit is a great suggestion.  Thanks!

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Petitioned Trillium Lodge 724 - November 25 2013
Initiated - February 20, 2014
Passed - March 20, 2014
Raised - December 18, 2014

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Posted: 31 October 2013 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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Jumping in a bit late here.

Jim you may be onto something. An article in the Journal of the Masonic Society a few years back entitled “There’s a hole in our bucket” breaks down the numbers via the same source you mentioned in your OP.

The fact is that there is a rapid decline based on many factors. One being the aging WWII era members that are impacting the numbers significantly. There other losses are via members joining and for whatever reason demitting or being dropped for NPD. These are the curios and those that for whatever reason joined and then decided it was not for them.

The analysis of the numbers then and now suggests the same thing. Unlike prior periods in history there are many more demands of the time of men who are of age to join Freemasonry. The access to media and home forms of entertainment and instant gratification are so numerous and omnipresent now.

However the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. Paul is on the money with quality over quantity. The numbers will ebb and flow. That much is for sure.

Freemasonry is not a business and and looking at it this way will certainly look bad and to a CEO be a panic moment.
We are all aware of the issues with paying the bills and such. Since Freemasonry is Lodge centric and as lodges that don’t adapt will close or merge with others, Freemasonry will survive. Like was mentioned in the aftermath of the Morgan Affair, the Grand Lodge of the State of Vermont or New Hampshire (can’t remember which) actually stopped meeting for a few years. New York lost 90% of it’s numbers in just over 2 years time. After a decade or so it was back, re-invented and grew rapidly.

As many of us are in charge of Lodges these days that are well aware of the numbers, and Brothers like Chris Hodapp and others that remind us of what we are here for and as we communicate we learn. Freemasonry does not change quickly or randomly, change is slow and sometimes very hard. There is none among us who is not aware of the issues facing Freemasonry that I am aware of.

So your concerns are noted and believe you me, many are paying attention. If you do decide to join you can be part of the change and help usher in a new sense of pride and urgency in making Freemasonry what it should be. The premier Fraternity to join and be the best one can be.
Or you can over analyse this decision and watch. The choice is yours and nobody will try to get you to join if you have doubts.

We are hear to answer questions about Freemasonry for any interested. Although your question is legitimate it’s difficult to answer in a few sentences or paragraphs even. This subject has been at the forefront for several years now.

In fact some knee jerk reactions some years back was to offer one day classes to those who were too busy to join the traditional way. Many of those men ended up demitting or being dropped for NPD. There are 7 men in my lodge who went through this class and 2 remained and went on to become Master of the Lodge. So we learned from that, again quality over quantity. Was it worth it? Well that’s a discussion that’s beyond the scope of this site.

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Posted: 31 October 2013 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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MasonMaybe - 31 October 2013 11:12 AM

I understand what you are suggesting, but isn’t it a bit presumptuous to join with the intention of changing it as soon as I am raised?  That’s a bit like my first marriage, where we both went into it saying it will be OK once I change her/him….

The idea of checking out the different lodges (there are 6 in my town all sharing the same building) to see where I fit is a great suggestion.  Thanks!

That is why you have to really talk to the members.  I joined in 2009, the brothers I am working with joined a year or less before I did….We are making changes.  You don’t go in expecting to make changes two weeks after you become a Master Mason.  You also don’t attempt to make the changes on your own.  You always work through the sitting Master.  Talk to him and the Wardens about your ideas.  Get involved with the other members to see what they expect from the fraternity.  Offer to head up a committee to try new things in lodge.  If the lodge does not do activities outside of lodge nights, suggest some.  It doesn’t matter how small you start.  It could be something as small as hosting a card night for a few of the members.  My wife and I just held our second annual adults Halloween party and we invited members from my lodge to attend.  This could turn into an actual lodge event, who knows.  My lodge in NY has been sending our historian down to Louisiana every June for a reenactment of an event that took place during the civil war.  This year was the 150th anniversary of that event and the incoming master decided to send a group of us down, so 5 of us went and it was a tremendous success.  Those of us that went, cannot wait to go back, with more people.  Remember the story of the little engine that could?  Become the “little” mason that could, you’ll be surprised at how just a little spark or other incentive can blossom into something wonderful….

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W:. Bro. Paul Hulseapple
St. Georges Lodge #6
Worshipful Master for the 2016-17 A.D 6016-17 A.L. year

32┬░AASR Valley of Schenectady
St Georges Chapter #157 Royal Arch Masons
Scribe

St. George’s Council # 74 Cryptic Masons
Giles Fonda Yates Council #22 AMD
Jr. Warden

St. George’s Commandery #37
Oriental Shrine A.A.O.N.M.S.
Schenectady NY

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Posted: 31 October 2013 12:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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MasonMaybe - 31 October 2013 11:12 AM

I understand what you are suggesting, but isn’t it a bit presumptuous to join with the intention of changing it as soon as I am raised?  That’s a bit like my first marriage, where we both went into it saying it will be OK once I change her/him….

The idea of checking out the different lodges (there are 6 in my town all sharing the same building) to see where I fit is a great suggestion.  Thanks!

As a person who in many ways is in you’re same spot Jim I can see where you are coming from, but why would a lodge want to you to join if you will not make that lodge better. Some times all it takes is a spark to start a fire, it is the same it an idea. The decline in member ship I think should not even be a concern at this point, it is happening and nothing but time will change that. New members may not be taking the place of lost members now, but it will happen. Right now their is a change in younger people where ever thing old is new again, and soon this group will find their way to the Freemason. In the end I’ll say I would want to be part of that group that help make the changes to grow the lodge than to be part of the group that takes advantage of the improvements that others made. 
Ryan Walsh

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Posted: 31 October 2013 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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These posts have really given me something to think about…

Thank you all very much.

Jim

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Petitioned Trillium Lodge 724 - November 25 2013
Initiated - February 20, 2014
Passed - March 20, 2014
Raised - December 18, 2014

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Posted: 01 November 2013 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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Masonry experienced a huge growth during WW2, and in the years immediately following the war. It was a “perfect storm” with men who had experienced combat, and seeking the brotherhood which Freemasonry offers. The numbers peaked, and then began a decline. With additional leisure activities, and the dispersion of the population caused by the war, Freemasonry began a decline, which still continues.

(I am a former Census Bureau employee, data collections). As bad as the raw numbers are, the worse problem is that the average age of Freemasons in the USA is in the late 60’s. Since the human life span is 73, you can see, that as the population median moves upward, then the numbers will really start to decline.

More sadly, is the fact that most Masons are unconcerned about the decline. Lodges are closing all over the USA, and the opportunity to participate is declining as well.

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Posted: 01 November 2013 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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I know that there is no over-arching organization, but don’t the District, State, etc Grand Masters ever meet to discuss these issues?  If so, what kinds of solutions are being discussed?

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Petitioned Trillium Lodge 724 - November 25 2013
Initiated - February 20, 2014
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Raised - December 18, 2014

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Posted: 01 November 2013 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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I cant get this link to work sorry but try googling this Jim ‘WHAT REALLY MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LODGE’, it hits on a lot of this discussion. But in the end it is always like a three legged chair every thing has to be even.
Ryan Walsh

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Hoffman Lodge #412
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Posted: 01 November 2013 09:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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In the 1980’s a group of Grand Masters (mostly from the southern USA), met at the Lake of the Ozarks. The meeting was sponsored by the Scottish Rite (southern jurisdiction) USA. The result of the meeting was the formation of the “Masonic renewal task force”. The objective of the task force, was to reverse the trends in the Craft Lodges of the USA, and stanch the loss of membership.

Most Grand Lodges and individual lodges chose to ignore the recommendations of the task force, and it was subsequently abandoned and closed down.

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Charles E. Martin
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Bowling Green Lodge #73, Bowling Green, KY (Grand Lodge of KY, F.&A.M.;)
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Posted: 01 November 2013 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Charles maybe in the 80’s they where not ready for the truth, I’m sure this forum has taking a lot of back leash for some masons. When clearly it has done a lot to inform people about the craft.
Ryan Walsh

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Posted: 01 November 2013 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Unhappily, most Masons (and worshipful Masters, and Grand Lodge officers) are not convinced that there is a problem. They see the decline in numbers as a normal and natural occurence, since the “bump” in membership after WW2 was a “freak” occurence. As an experienced demographer, this conclusion has some merit. But the numbers alone, do not tell the whole story. The advancing age of the existing cohort of membership is the real concern. The population “bump” of post-WW2 masons is advancing in age, to the point where the majority will be past the human life span by the mid 2010’s. And new men are not replacing the Masons which are dying off. And more men leave the Craft each year due to resignations, and suspensions for non-payment of dues, than are dying. This confluence of events will spell real trouble in the next decades.

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Charles E. Martin
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Bowling Green Lodge #73, Bowling Green, KY (Grand Lodge of KY, F.&A.M.;)
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Posted: 01 November 2013 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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As the numbers of Masons declines, the opportunites for new men to participate will decline as well. And as the number of Masons declines, the number of lodges will decline. With fewer lodges, there will be fewer opportunities for men to join. Another problem, is that with the majority of Masons being in their upper years, there is always resistance “We never did it that way before”. My lodge does not even have a web page! The lodge is run by a group of men who are opposed to any changes of any kind. Many lodges have this “buzzard’s row”, which obstruct any change.

The combination of advancing age, fewer lodges, and resistance to change, is creating a “vicious cycle”, which is going to lead to a “crash” ,where there will not be enough men nor lodges to rescue and revive the Craft for the latter part of the 21st Century.

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Charles E. Martin
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My blog about Masonry in Afghanistan and Iraq:
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Bowling Green Lodge #73, Bowling Green, KY (Grand Lodge of KY, F.&A.M.;)
Macedonian Lodge, Quincy Mass. (Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, F.&A.M.;)
Alexandria, VA Scottish Rite Bodies, A.A.S.R. (Southern Jurisdiction, USA)

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